Weddings at Williams


The Thompson Memorial Chapel is located at 860 Main Street.
The Jewish Religious Center is located at 24 Stetson Court,
Williamstown, MA 01267

Who may use Thompson Memorial Chapel, the Jewish Religious Center or other College facilities?

Because we receive more reservation requests than we can honor, we must limit the use of these facilities to members of the Williams community – understood to include the following:

  • currently enrolled students
  • members of the faculty (currently employed or emeritus)
  • currently employed staff listed in the Williams College directory
  • any Williams alumnus or alumna
  • the son or daughter of any of the above

Weddings that take place at the Jewish Religious Center are those where both participants are Jewish.

Because the Thompson Memorial Chapel and the Jewish Religious Center are sacred spaces, weddings taking place in either building must be religious ceremonies. We are happy to suggest other locations for secular ceremonies.

What’s the procedure for reserving a date?

When we receive your inquiry, if your chosen date is available, we make note of the inquiry on our calendar and send these information sheets, including a reservation form, to you. We ask that you complete and return the form as soon as possible to secure your reservation.

Who may officiate at the wedding, and how do we secure the services of an officiant?

Because Thompson Memorial Chapel and the Jewish Religious Center are houses of prayer, only religious ceremonies may be conducted in them, with duly certified religious professionals presiding. It is not appropriate, for instance, for a Justice of the Peace to preside at a secular ceremony in these spaces.

One of the Chaplains of Williams College may be available to officiate; if this possibility is of interest to you, please notify our office as early as possible. If you do not have an officiant in mind, and if one of the Williams Chaplains is not available, we encourage you to seek the services of another certified officiant. While we are not able to offer the service of securing an officiant for you, we may be able to provide the names of local members of the clergy whom you may want to contact.

The laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts specify that any member of the clergy in good standing within a particular denomination, movement, order or other community of faith may officiate. Bearing in mind the requirement that all wedding ceremonies held in Thompson Memorial Chapel and at the Jewish Religious Center are religious ceremonies, we welcome the involvement of any qualified officiant you may have in mind – a beloved pastor or mentor, a family friend or relative, for example. When you supply his or her contact information, we will send a letter of invitation to your prospective officiant, asking him/her to certify that ordination or other credentials are in order.

Note that the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts require that officiating clergy who are not residents of Massachusetts must apply for a special commission in advance from the Secretary of the Commonwealth in order to have legal standing to officiate at a particular wedding ceremony. If your officiant is not a Massachusetts resident, it is your responsibility to inform him/her of this important provision of the law; more information is available at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/premar/marnon.htm


A Word to Couples Planning a Roman Catholic Wedding
If your intention is to celebrate your wedding according to the tradition of Catholicism and you desire the presence or services of a local Roman Catholic priest, please be in touch with our Catholic Chaplain, Rev. Gary C. Caster at least a full nine months before the date of your ceremony. If you will be inviting a priest from your own home parish or another area, please encourage him to be in touch directly with Fr. Caster as soon as possible so that your pre-marital preparations can be in accord with Diocesan practice and policy, and so that your marriage can be duly recorded according to church law. Note, too, that Catholic priests and deacons are generally not available on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings (as well as most Sunday afternoons). Fr. Caster is not able to provide referrals in the event that he himself is unavailable for your wedding date.

Given the magnitude of the decision to marry, the Chaplains’ Office urges every couple to make the commitment to a thoughtful, candid process of preparation for marriage with their officiant or with some other trained, experienced counselor or guide. Most couples find the process of reflective preparation to be one of the most rewarding aspects of the entire process of getting married. Virtually every officiant will have some standard or guidelines for reflective preparation in anticipation of marriage - usually involving at least several meetings over a period of several weeks or more prior to the wedding day; some may also involve classes or retreats with other engaged couples. You should be sure that you understand the particular expectations of the officiant who will be working with you.

What is the procedure for obtaining a marriage license?

All people who marry in Massachusetts must have a marriage license issued in Massachusetts. An out-of-state license cannot be used. A Massachusetts license can be obtained from the Town Clerk in any city or town in the Commonwealth; it is not necessary to apply in Williamstown, though our Town Clerk (413-458-9341) welcomes applicants. You must apply in person, together. The fee varies from town to town. There is a three-day waiting period between the day of filing and the day the license can be picked up; it is then valid for 60 days from the date of filing (and can be picked up any time during those 60 days). Please remember that your marriage license will be recorded in the town where you filed for a license, not in the town where your wedding took place. A blood test is no longer required.

In Massachusetts you don’t automatically receive an official document from the state certifying that you’re married; so if you’d like a certified copy of your license for your records, you’ll need to indicate this to the Town Clerk at the time you pick up your license. There is a small fee for this additional service.

More information about marriage licenses in Massachusetts is available from the Secretary of the Commonwealth Citizen Information Service (617) 727-7030 or (800) 392-6090 MA only) - http://www.state.ma.us/sec/cis

What are the fees for the use of Thompson Memorial Chapel and the Jewish Religious Center?

Though there is no rental fee for use of these facilities by members of the Williams Community, there are two costs which couples should include in their wedding budgets.

A custodial fee of $200 payable by check to Williams College, must be returned with your reservation form. This fee is refundable in the event of changes in your plans.

Event insurance must be purchased by each couple – for which the typical charge is approximately $100-$150. Couples are required to purchase their own liability insurance coverage for the event; additional details will be included in your Letter of Agreement for Use of Williams College Facilities.
What other costs are involved?

Officiant – Each member of the clergy has his or her own policy or practice regarding remuneration for wedding services. It is your responsibility to inquire about the practice of your officiant, and to provide whatever honorarium or other compensation may be appropriate (including reimbursement of any expenses s/he may incur) directly to the officiant on or before the day of the wedding rehearsal.

The College chaplains are pleased to officiate at weddings as their schedules permit. Because these ceremonies lie outside the scope of their regular duties, they, like other clergy, should be appropriately compensated.

Organist and/or other musicians – Likewise, musicians establish their own individual rates of compensation for their services. Generally speaking, musicians do not attend the rehearsal – though if you desire, attendance can sometimes be arranged, usually at an additional cost. Payment (including reimbursement of any expenses) should be made directly to the musican(s) on or before the day of the wedding.

Wedding consultant/planner – The wedding ceremony itself does not require the services of a consultant/planner, and in general the Chaplains’ Office does not recommend the use of these services unless other aspects of the plans for the wedding day are particularly complex. Fees for these services vary widely.

Flowers, photography, etc. – These arrangements are made by each couple, and should conform to the policies and guidelines below.

License – Each town in Massachusetts sets its own marriage license fee; generally they range from $10 to $30. There may be an additional fee to obtain a certified copy of the license after the wedding for your own records.

How are arrangements for music for the ceremony made?

Each couple makes arrangements directly with musicians for their ceremony. The Chaplains’ Office can refer you to the organist(s) who regularly play in Thompson Memorial Chapel. These musicians are happy to consult with you about your ceremony, and can make excellent suggestions of repertoire appropriate to the occasion .

Because of the delicacy and value of the instrument, any other organist must apply directly to the Chaplains’ Office for permission to play the Thompson Chapel organ. In such cases, and with adequate notice, practice time can be arranged. A grand piano is also available in the Sanctuary.

Other musicians – instrumentalists and/or vocalists – are, of course, most welcome to participate in wedding ceremonies. Be sure to consult carefully with your officiant as you make arrangements for the services of other musicians – and also with the organist or pianist if rehearsal time is required for accompaniment.

What is the policy regarding decorations (including flowers) and other furnishings?

You should make arrangements for flowers directly with the florist of your choice. We are happy to supply the names of several local florists who are familiar with our facilities. Since our calendar frequently has more than one wedding scheduled for a particular day, deliveries of wedding flowers must be made no more than two hours in advance of your ceremony.

In addition to floral arrangements for the chancel of Thompson Memorial Chapel, floral decorations may be hung on the ends of the pews provided that no tacks, tape or other fasteners are used and no permanent marks are made.

For reasons of safety and environmental concern, the throwing of rice, birdseed, rose petals, or confetti is not allowed. Aisle runners are generally not used in Thompson Memorial Chapel.

Two seven-stick candelabra, two floral pedestals and a kneeler are available in Thompson Memorial Chapel. If plans for the ceremony include the use of a unity candle, you’ll need to provide the candle stand and tapers.

What is the policy regarding photography and videography?

When planning to record visual memories of a wedding ceremony, it’s helpful to be mindful of two equally important aspects of the nature of the occasion. On the one hand, preserving the images of the beautiful day provides lasting memories that can help to keep a marriage grounded in the love and commitment out of which it was born. On the other hand, a wedding ceremony is a religious ritual to be entered into with great reverence. We ask that you let your photographers and videographers know that it’s important to you that they respect the worshipful and prayerful nature of the ceremony, and that an atmosphere of reverence must be maintained at all times. Photographers must consult with the officiant before the ceremony to be sure they understand his/her expectations for appropriate photography.

Is parking available?

For weddings in Thompson Memorial Chapel, the large parking lot behind the building (upper and lower) can usually accommodate guests for even the largest weddings – though this may depend on other events taking place on the date in question. Access to this lot is via Hopkins Hall Drive (from Route 2/Main Street) or by Mission Park Drive (from Southworth Street). A printable campus map is available at http://www.williams.edu/map/

Are the facilities accessible?

The Jewish Religious Center is fully accessible. The accessible entrance to Thompson Memorial Chapel is the southeast entrance – at the base of the building’s gothic tower. Be sure to indicate that accessibility is a concern for your guests when making your reservation, so that the Chaplains’ Office can be sure that the ramp is in place on the day of your ceremony.

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